Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 20 August 2010 00:00
Mineola residents were packed to the gills at a public hearing last week that addressed the special use permit application of Wei Ji Lin to establish a Chinese take-out restaurant on Old Country Road. The restaurant would sit in a row of stores located between Juniper Avenue and Geranium Avenue on Old Country Road. It seems like the perfect spot to complement the fairly new Kemistry Restaurant and Lounge and stores of the like.
However, unlike most restaurants in the area, it would sit directly south of residential housing, particularly Geranium and Juniper Avenues. Various residents said that they’re inconvenienced already by restaurant-goers parking illegally to “get a quick bite” and the smells and odors that have been emanating from restaurants nearby.
The board of trustees has to wait for a recommendation from the Nassau County Planning Commission before it makes its decision. When that will occur is unknown at this time.
The storefront was originally constructed in 1956. The proposed spot for the establishment is now vacant. According to representatives of the applicants, the store is 100x100 feet and the existing structure is 95x60. Lin is seeking to sign a 20-year lease on the building.
Representatives of Lin were on hand to present the proposal to the board of Trustees. Attorney Leonard Genova spoke before the board and to the public detailing what the parameters of the plan to build the take-out restaurant.
“There have been no alterations to the “footprints” of the building,” Genova said. “The width of the take-out restaurant is approximately 14 1/2 feet for a total of 832 square feet.”
The store would consist of a kitchen area, waiting area and a counter. Genova stated that the kitchen area would take up 75 percent of the establishment. Furthermore, that it will serve as a walk-in walkout restaurant. It would not be used for dining-in.
Only 268 square feet is available to the public. There will be seating available, according to Genova, however Lin expects to get most of its business from foot-traffic in the surrounding neighborhood, which is why he opted for a take-out restaurant, rather than a full service business.
“This type of operation does not lend itself to have tables for food to be served which is why it’s being presented the way it is,” Genova said. “The tables will serve as an amenity for those who are coming to pick up their food. Most of this pickup will be walk-in traffic. The impact of the proposed use is really no different than those associated with other typical retail stores; the main difference being the product which is food.”
Traffic expert Steve Feretti said that it would be wrong to say that there is no traffic in the area. He stated that the business would obviously generate customers and create an increase.
“However, I am here to say that it will not generate traffic that’s adverse to the community or adverse affects to the traffic stream on Old Country Road,” Feretti stated. “After doing studies of nearby restaurants, I can state the traffic that will be generated by this proposal will be less than the retail facility that occupied the building before.”
That’s not how Geranium Avenue resident Desmond Crotty sees it. Crotty said that parking is at a premium on Geranium and Juniper Avenue. He said he rarely if ever gets a parking spot near his home.
“It’s next to impossible already with Papa Sorto’s Pizzeria, Kemistry and the surrounding restaurants and businesses,” he said of the parking situation. “Adding another [restaurant] would just create more hassle. Everyone that will go there will park on our block just to get a quick bite. Everyone that doesn’t want to sit on Old Country Road in traffic comes down our streets. It’s getting to a point where it’s gridlock traffic on our blocks during peak hours.”
Laura Okrent agreed with Crotty’s statements. She questioned as to why Feretti did not assess the traffic of the surrounding residential blocks near the proposed take-out site.
According to parking signs on Geranium Avenue, there is no parking on the street from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Okrent said there are cars parked on her block at all hours of the day.
Furthermore, Geranium Avenue is one of the few residential blocks in that area with a traffic light, which makes it easier to make left turns onto Old Country Road. Okrent said cars are constantly using the street for the convenience of the light.
“I have to wait two or three lights to get down my street,” she said. “There’s always cars parked on the street illegally.”
“Generally, we do very well with handling parking enforcement,” Mayor Jack Martins said. “We’ll certainly request that our parking enforcement officials step up their efforts on that block.”
The other issue that is prevalent in the area is the odors that are released from the venting systems of the neighboring restaurants. Genova said that his client would install venting systems that will release fumes from the kitchen area toward Old Country Road so that it will not affect the residents.
“It’s our plan to do that,” Genova said. “Assuming the board is willing to keep the record open, we’d be happy to provide a more detailed response to that. It’s our plan to bring fumes through the roof and as far away from the residents as we can.”